Hughes, Apollo join to form training business New company buying One Touch, which has Ford as a client

High technology

August 19, 1998|By Mark Ribbing | Mark Ribbing,SUN STAFF

Looking to increase its share of the increasingly competitive satellite communications market, Hughes Network Systems has agreed to form a company that will use satellites to beam interactive education and training programs into schools and offices worldwide.

The Germantown subsidiary of Hughes Electronics Corp. said yesterday that it is joining forces with Apollo Group Inc. of Phoenix in the satellite venture.

Hughes and Apollo said the new company has agreed to acquire privately owned One Touch Systems Inc., an interactive education company in San Jose, Calif. The new company will keep the One Touch name.

One Touch developed a multimedia service that allows companies to communicate with workers in far-flung plants and offices. Its largest client, Ford Motor Co., uses the service to train its mechanics and sales staff nationwide.

In theory, analysts say, the new venture will combine Apollo's education programs, Hughes' satellite networks and One Touch's experience in delivering education and training programs via video, voice and data networks.

"What this venture allows you to do is essentially one-stop shopping," said Scott L. Soffen of Legg Mason Inc. "They can provide you with the desktop capability, the satellite delivery system, and the content. That's what makes this new company unique."

"We're putting together the three leaders in their respective areas," said Dennis Conti, vice president of the satellite network division of Hughes Network Systems.

The financial terms of the transactions were not disclosed. Hughes will own 51 percent of the new company, and Apollo will hold 49 percent. The new company is expected to be formed within 30 days.

Caliber Learning Network Inc., a Baltimore joint venture of Sylvan Learning Systems Inc. and MCI Communications Corp., is establishing similar programs through Columbia University's Teachers College and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Soffen said the Hughes-Apollo venture will generally not compete with Caliber.

"They scrape alongside each other, but to a large extent they are going after different markets," he said. While Caliber seeks to carry programming from exclusive colleges and graduate schools, Hughes and Apollo are aiming at the adult-education and vocational training markets.

Pub Date: 8/19/98

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